Spotlight on… Aberystwyth University

A world without knowledge is no world. Geraint Pugh, University Secretary, introduces Aberystwyth University, located on Cardigan Bay in west Wales.

When did Aberystwyth become a university?

A ‘Welsh University’ committee was formed in 1867 with the intention of establishing a university for the people of Wales.

An incomplete hotel in Aberystwyth was purchased for use by the new institution. This building is now known as the ‘Old College’ on the seafront in town.

Meanwhile, five regional committees – in London, Manchester, Liverpool, north and south Wales – were established to raise funds for the running expenses for the first couple of years.

Aberystwyth University was officially founded in 1872.

It will be celebrating its 150th birthday in 2022!

Can you describe the Aberystwyth campus?

The University is mainly based on our Penglais campus, looking down on the town of Aberystwyth. This is where most of our students and staff are based. It is home to the University’s Arts Centre, which serves the local community.

We also have a campus at Gogerddan, some two miles to the north of Aberystwyth. This is where research staff from our Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences (IBERS) are based.

How many students does Aberystwyth have?

The University has around 8,000 students, the majority of which are registered on an undergraduate course. 12% of our registered students come from overseas.

How is accommodation provided to students?

The University offers various accommodation options to students, the majority of which are owned and run by the institution. This enables the University to guarantee accommodation for all first-year undergraduate students.

All residences are on the Penglais campus, or close nearby in the town, and provide a mix of catered and self-catering options. The historic Pantycelyn Hall was recently refurbished to provide dedicated accommodation for students who are Welsh speakers or learners, and would like to live in a Welsh-speaking environment.

Is Aberystwyth known for particular areas of study?

We offer a range of programmes encompassing the Arts, Sciences and Social Sciences.

Several academic departments are notable in that they were amongst the first to be established in the UK. This includes our International Politics department, established in 1919. It was the world’s first department dedicated to the study of international relations following the First World War.

Which notable alumni have attended Aberystwyth?

We have many notable alumni – many of whom have gone on to have prominent careers in the judiciary and the media.

These include:

  • Former Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon
  • Belinda Ang, Judge at the Supreme Court of Singapore
  • BBC One Show presenter Alex Jones
  • Film director Sharon Maguire.

The University is also traditionally well-represented in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, with many alumni elected as politicians over the years.

What’s your favourite thing about Aberystwyth?

The University is very much rooted in the local area. It is one of the region’s largest employers, which means that you often see colleagues in and around the town outside of work hours. This certainly makes you feel like you’re part of one large community.

Can you tell us an interesting piece of trivia about Aberystwyth?

65% of the oats grown in the UK have been bred by colleagues at our Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

What is your university motto?

‘Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth’ (‘A World Without Knowledge, Is No World’).

Which challenges is Aberystwyth currently facing?

The steps taken by the University over recent years to address Aber-specific issues means that the institution now primarily faces the same challenges as other institutions in the sector. These include attracting research income in a post-Brexit world, and recruiting overseas students during a global pandemic.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your university?

A matter of considerable pride is that the University has made a significant contribution to the education of women, being one of the first institutions to admit female students. It opened its first purpose-built hall of residence, Alexandra Hall, in 1896.

Geraint Pugh is the University Secretary at Aberystwyth University.